I won’t mention anything about what happened to Arsenal’s Eduardo over the weekend, since it’s been talked about plenty already, but I send my get well wishes towards him, and hope he’s back scoring goals (but not against Manchester United) again as soon as possible.
It was a pretty important weekend of football in the Premier League, with the race for the title and for European places getting ever tighter as we edge towards the home stretch.
At the other end, the relegation battle is ongoing, and though it’s almost a given that Derby will be playing Championship football next term, several other sides are fighting to not join the Rams in the second level.
So, here’s a look back at the weekend that was.
Manchester United Rout Newcastle…Again, Close Gap at Top
Lost in the Eduardo injury is the fact that Arsenal only managed a 2-2 draw at Birmingham, with James McFadden netting a last-minute penalty to give the 10-man Brummies a vital point.
How inspired Arsenal were after the injury, I don’t know, but Theo Walcott’s superb five-minute brace in the second half had the Gunners on track for a win until McFadden’s late equalizer.
The draw pushed Arsenal’s lead at the top to six points, but that didn’t last too long, as Manchester United went out and handed Newcastle a 5-1 thrashing at St. James Park.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been scoreless thus far in February, netted in each half to take his total for the season to 29, and Wayne Rooney did the same.
After putting six past the Magpies in the second half at Old Trafford last month, it was 2-0 at the break with goals from Roo and Ron, and strikes from the duo and a late one by Louis Saha finished off the rout and pulled United within three points.
I don’t know if Newcastle fans are looking ahead to next season and saying that will be where King Kev turns it around, but they might need to look at right now, even if they don’t want to, because their side’s place in the top flight is anything but secure. Their winless streak is now at 10 matches in the league, and they’re starting to slip perilously close to the danger zone.
I know they’re not very good at all, and they’re in desperate need of some talent, but the players that they have right now need to get it together in a hurry and get some wins, which to his credit, Sam Allardyce did get a few of during his short tenure.
Battle for Fourth Still Tight
Fresh off of their big win over Inter in the Champions League on Tuesday night, Liverpool didn’t exactly get off to a dream start against visiting Middlesbrough, as Sanli Tuncay gave Boro a ninth-minute lead.
But, Fernando Torres erased that deficit and then some by firing Liverpool into the lead with two goals in two minutes near the half-hour, and then finishing off his hat trick with a strike shortly after the hour mark. Stewart Downing pulled one back late, but the Reds held on to move to 47 points and take fourth on goal difference from Everton (both with 26 matches played).
On Sunday, Aston Villa (27) joined Everton on 47 with their 2-1 win at Reading, who I’ll talk about more shortly.
Portsmouth (44 from 27) are still hanging close, with Jermain Defoe’s 69th minute penalty giving Pompey a 1-0 win over Sunderland. Manchester City are trying their best to do the same as well, but missed a great chance to tighten things up even further with their 2-0 home defeat to Everton, who are now back in fourth on 50, after Monday’s victory at Eastlands.
Above the bottom-placed Rams are Fulham (19 points), who missed out on a valuable point on Saturday, thanks to a late, controversial winner by Nobby Solano in a 1-0 win for West Ham at Craven Cottage.
Occupying the other relegation place is Reading (22), who are sinking further and further into the abyss, with Sunday’s loss to Villa their club-record eighth in a row in the league.
After following up a runaway Championship title in 2005/06 with an eighth-place finish in their first season up, things have gone from bad to worse to worst for the Royals. Coming into the season, I actually thought they could push for a place in the UEFA Cup, but they’ve missed the mark, to say the least, because of a defense that’s been generous with the goals, especially away from the Madejski. Reading have picked up only three points (three draws) in 13 away league matches this season, so if they want to harbor any real hopes of staying up going down the stretch, nicking away points is crucial, starting Saturday at Boro.
I wonder if Steve Coppell is wishing he’d jumped off the ship when he was talking about taking a break from management.
Birmingham (23) are a point above the relegation zone after their draw with the leaders, and two points above them are Bolton (25), who celebrated their advancement to the UEFA Cup round of 16 by getting thrashed 4-1 at Blackburn. Wigan picked up three big points by beating Derby 2-0, and are on 26 points along with Sunderland.
Then there’s Newcastle, six points better than Reading. In the end, they should have no problem staying up, but it’s not nice to scare your fans like that, is it boys?
Rough Week for Adebayor
Entering Arsenal’s FA Cup tie against United, Emmanuel Adebayor had scored 13 goals in his previous nine appearances.
On Wednesday night against AC Milan, Adebayor missed a golden opportunity in the final seconds, hitting the bar on a shot that would have given the Gunners an advantage heading to the San Siro.
On Saturday, Adebayor couldn’t find the net despite a few good chances in the draw against Birmingham.
Maybe having to play with Nicklas Bendtner up front knocked him off of his game, or it could be he was just trying to make Bendtner look good.
Goals of the Weekend
Theo Walcott vs. Birmingham: Nice mazy run and superb finish to put Arsenal up 2-1 on 55.
Fernando Torres vs. Middlesbrough: Thundering strike to put Liverpool up 2-1. If the defender had moved just a few inches to the right, he would have been in a great deal of pain.
Wayne Rooney vs. Newcastle: Curling shot to put Manchester United up 4-1 in the 80th minute. Great pass by his former teammate to set him up, yes?